How does the air suspension system work? (Plus 6 commonly asked questions)

Vigorairride air springs have long been an integral part of the trucking ecosystem. However, just in the last decade, they’ve gained traction, especially in the commercial world. Almost every motorcycle, performance car, terrain vehicle, extending to daily commuter vehicles, now use air ride suspension. This technological evolution suggests that no one wants the traditional imprecise, slow, and clunky systems. Rather, everyone wants to enjoy that fast, precision-centric tech that oversees everything including bag pressure, ride height, ultimately giving that controlled, seamless, and smooth ride.

In essence, the air suspension kit is designed to serve as a direct and more beneficial replacement to the coil springs present in most vehicles. Basically, air springs are just textile-reinforced tough rubber plus air inflated to a specific pressure as well as height to replicate heat coil springs do. However, this is the only similar concept between both systems. Using an on-board air compressor, electronic controls, as well as sensors, the air suspension systems or air springs available commercially today offer several advantages over the wholly metallic conventional springs, such as the almost instant turning capability, and its operations tailored to adapt to your cruise control to varying scenarios and diverse loads. Whether your air ride suspension system is electronically or manually operated, it fundamentally serves similar functions and can help you lower your car to skyrocket its street cred.

Basic components of an air Spring

The earlier developed air springs were pretty straightforward. Coil springs were changed to airbags. And the system worked by inflating the bag time-specific pressure or height using a compressor via the valve present on the airbag. The evolution and advancement of technology as well as its use cases led to the addition of more components and controls to the framework. However, most air springs you can find today have almost similar features and components that may vary just a little depending on the maker. Most of the variations that you’d find are in terms of ease of installation as well as controls.

The materials used in airbags have evolved just a little over time. Generally, the airbag is made of rubber and polyurethane, which gives it its structural integrity, tenacity, airtight feel, and makes it resistant to light abrasions from sand, debris as well as corrosive chemicals. These bags typically come in three distinct shapes: double convoluted, rolling sleeves, as well as Tapered sleeves.

For most air springs today, you can find an onboard compressor, which serves as the electric pump that feeds air pressure to the bag via several compressed airlines. Usually, you’d find these mounts on the frame of your car or even the trunk. Also, you’re most likely to find a driver attached to it, which serves as an absorbent for air moisture before directing them towards the system. Other components relevant to this mechanism include the lines, valves, solenoid, among others.

How do air springs work?

As briefly highlighted earlier, as opposed to using a spring, you have a rubber bellow filled with air pressure. When your vehicle is loaded, this bellow compresses, which results in a specific reduction in volume and increased pressure. As you pump more air into the system, it reinstates the bellow back to its original volume, or even more importantly its original height. For an air suspension system, increasing the pressure denotes an increase in stiffness, which is essential for the load you added.

At the same time, the vehicular ride height doesn’t change. As we could see in several upmarket saloons, station wagons, sport utility cars, most of these cars only have this system at their rear. The primary benefit of this model is that even in situations whereby the boot is completely laden, the vehicle remains at a reasonable level

Several components, as aforementioned, serve as compensatory and supportive mechanisms for air-filled bellows or airbag suspension systems. And of course, you can’t fund them in the traditional steel-sprung suspension models.  One of such subtle belt-driven/electric compressors, whose function is supplying air into the bellows. Sensors are what alert the compressors when their function is required.

6 commonly asked air suspension system questions

How long can an air Spring last?

There is no specific answer to this. Typically, the lifespan of air suspension bags may vary depending on a range of factors, including the manufacturers, type of vehicle, the form of system, as well as the ways in which you use them, whether conservatively or aggressively. However, on average, an airbag may last you up to 60 to 70 thousand miles, or in other cases, could need replacement after ten years of use.

What factors could result in the breakage of airbag suspension?

Just like every other part in a vehicle, air springs are also subject to deterioration and ultimately, breakage depending on several factors, such as their age. And of course, this can cause a total failure of the air suspension system. Besides, rusts and the presence of moisture in the air suspension system could react alongside the struts metals, which could cause corrosion on the system.

What is the average cost of an air spring?

On average, you can always get an air Spring replacement at roughly 1300 to 1400 USD. Note that this is plus the labor cost, which could range from anywhere around 180 to 230 USD.

Can you drive your vehicle with a faulty air suspension?

The straightforward answer to this is NO. When your air ride is broken, your truck tends to bounce uncontrollably, making it pretty challenging to handle safely.

Indications that your air suspension system is damaged

Assume signs that you have a faulty air spring include vibrations on hitting speed bumps, visibly shaky tires, wheel shiny, etc. Another apparent indication is a bouncy and uncontrollable ride, where the body of your vehicle sways disproportionately anytime you turn a corner or cruising in a strong crosswind.

Do you need shocks for your air suspension?

A properly designed and applied shock lets you enjoy a more predictable and precise cruise control over your ride. Also in an air Spring, shocks are very integral parts for several other reasons. As the air, in this case, is compressible, and the essence of air springs is acting as a flexible pressure vessel, spring rates may not be constant. Hence the need for shocks.